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After COVID-19 Pandemic, stakeholders canvass new book policy to address emerging issues

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Stakeholders in the book sector have been asked to work towards the formulation and adoption of a National Book Policy that would address the emerging issues in the sector.

Speaking at the just ended 2020 Nigeria Virtual Book Fair, the President of International Publishers Association, Hugo Setzer, urged publishers around the world to embrace digital publishing, saying it will enable them “overcome distribution challenges.”

Differently, the sectoral bodies that make up the book chain, considered the synergy between ICT and publishing for optimal results, enhancing marketing operations through the use of ICT tools not leaving out the importance of data analysis to improve business performance.

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They also discussed utilising opportunities engendered by the current pandemic.

Setzer said, “digital publishing is clearly an integral part of our industry, but no matter how important new technology may be, let us not forget content. We must not confuse the means of distribution and reading devices with the content, whether that be educational resources, gripping stories, or scientific research.”

He said information technology and digitisation are important innovations that should be considered by publishers.

Setzer added, “the importance of our work as publishers is our role of ensuring quality and of curation. We must guard against government’s who confuse budgets for shiny devices with budgets for quality educational resources. We must also ensure that governments understand that the attraction of copyright exceptions for educational uses is short-term thinking, like destroying a dam to release the water. The end result will be drought.

“We must ensure that publishers’ intellectual property rights, their copyright, can be properly enforced online and that the challenges I know you have faced in Nigeria with physical piracy are not dwarfed by that of digital piracy.”

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For Gbadega Adedapo, Chairman of the Nigeria Book Fair Trust (NBFT) and President of Nigerian Publishers Association, this year’s book fair has provided the “needed stimulus in the booksellers’ supply chain for more effectiveness of the association, cost optimisation and profit maximisation for the online marketing activities of their members and also shared the association directory so as to easily locate booksellers in the neighbourhood.”

Director-General of Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), John O. Asein, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic presents practitioners in the book industry with an opportunity to redesign their business models, stressing that it is imperative for all those concerned to go back to the drawing board and address the new realities of today in order to guarantee a better tomorrow.

He tasked authors, publishers, printers, booksellers and others in the value chain to leverage on emerging Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools to sustain their relevance in the industry.

According to him, the commission has harmonised its regulatory and enforcement framework for a balanced, responsive and sustainable copyright ecosystem that would continue to meet the needs of the wider creative sector.

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The Director-General noted that in partnership with accredited bodies, the commission would soon roll out measures to monitor the production, importation, warehousing, distribution and sale of books, lamenting the reckless abuse by pirates.

“The commission will also activate all provisions of the Copyright Act, including the obligation on publishers, printers, producers and manufacturers of copyright works to keep a register of works. Our primary objective is to provide a more congenial business environment for copyright business, check book piracy and promote effective management and enforcement of rights,” he said.

“We urge relevant government agencies at Federal and state levels to adopt a policy requiring all government funded book production or procurement agreements to include an obligation that the books should also be made available in formats that blind and visually impaired persons can access,” he stated.

He condemned the rising incidence of illicit book sharing on WhatsApp groups, rogue e-libraries and fraudulent online bookstores, especially in the wake of the pandemic and e-learning solutions that it has forced on the education system. To this end, he assured right owners that the Commission would continue to monitor the online space and respond speedily to reports of copyright abuses.

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